|Rembrandt Brown screamed in agony. Fire burned through his veins. The Seer must have been right . . . he was going to die. The Kromagg wormhole he was sliding through was growing smaller by the second, and the pain rushing through his body was growing. He tried to keep his eyes open, tried to head towards the light that was the exit of the vortex. In that he failed and Rembrandt Brown succumbed to the darkness.|
• • •
Rembrandt's eyes slowly began to focus. He had no idea how long he had been unconscious. The only thing he knew was that the bright fluorescent lights above him were really hurting his eyes. It took him a few moments to survey his surroundings. A hospital room. He was in a hospital room. That shouldn't be.
He slowly eased himself out of the hospital bed. A rush of dizziness overwhelmed his body. Rembrandt nearly fell to the floor. The uncontrollable lightheadedness was almost too much to take. Rembrandt gradually made his way to a window. He looked outside and noticed the city surrounding him. San Francisco, but it looked normal. No signs of the Kromaggs. What had happened here?
"Mr. Brown! You're up!"
Rembrandt turned to a see a young nurse standing at the door.
"You really should lay back down. You're probably still weak."
Rembrandt was indeed very lightheaded. He began to walk towards her and stumbled. She rushed to his side and helped him back to the bed.. He looked up at the nurse and mumbled, "Where am I?"
The nurse looked at Rembrandt, somewhat confused. "Mr. Brown, you're in a hospital."
"That's not what I mean." Rembrandt shook his head, agitated. "WHERE am I?"
The nurse looked at him strangely, until a voice cut in from the other side of the room. "I think I can answer that, Mr. Brown."
Rembrandt turned to the door and saw a familiar face. "Maggie?"
"You, Mr. Brown, are home."Resolutions, Part 1
Written by Chris Deaver (Chaser9)
Rembrandt looked at his visitor strangely. "Home? Maggie, what the devil are you talking about?"
"My name is Margaret Beckett. Agent Beckett, FBI. I know all about you, Rembrandt Brown. And, please, never call me Maggie again . . . sounds like a bimbo name."
Rembrandt looked at her strangely. This couldn't be Maggie, at least not his Maggie.
Agent Beckett turned to the nurse and spoke, "Would you leave us please?"
"I'm not so sure that's a good idea. He's probably still very weak."
Beckett took a step closer. "Need I remind you who I am?" She drew open one side of her jacket, revealing a holstered revolver.
"Of course not, Agent Beckett." The nurse turned to Rembrandt and advised, "If you need me Mr. Brown, just push the blue button."
Remmy cracked a smile. "Will do."
Agent Beckett shut the door of the room and approached Rembrandt's bed. "So Brown, care to tell me where you've been hiding for the last six years?"
Rembrandt wasn't sure how to respond. He assumed this wasn't Earth Prime. Earth Prime should be overrun with Kromaggs. And obviously he had been mistaken for his double. That was the only explanation that made sense. Rembrandt would have to choose his answers carefully. There was no telling what type of person his double was . . . especially if the FBI was involved.
"Cat got your tongue Brown? Or would you prefer I call you the Cryin' Man? Former lead singer for the Spinning Topps. Who by the way, had 15 hits after you left to pursue your solo career."
Well, at least his double was or had been a singer at one time. Time to try a little gambit.
"Would you believe I've been touring Asia for the last few years? The Cryin' Man is big over there!"
"Lemme guess . . . you're the opening act for Elvis."
Remmy replied, "uhm . . . yeah . . ."
Obviously, not my Earth, Remmy thought with a touch of disappointment. Especially if Elvis is still alive.
Agent Beckett cocked her eyebrow. "I sincerely doubt that Brown. You happen to be one of the most famous missing persons since Amelia Earhart. You simply vanished off the face of the Earth, Brown. So, you going to tell me where you've been? And more specifically, where are Quinn Mallory, Wade Welles and Maximilian Arturo?"
Could it be? Was his double a slider? What to do now?
"Look, I told you, I've been touring Asia. Although I'm not sure how I got here. Last thing I remember I had just made it back from my last gig overseas. Was going to see if my agent Artie was around . . . check on maybe putting a new album together. After that it's dark."
Agent Beckett bent down over the bed and stared directly into Rembrandt's eyes. "Cut the crap Brown. We both know where you've been these last six years. As for how you got here. You were found unconscious in an alley in the middle of San Francisco. The only witness, a homeless man, claims you appeared out of a 'strange red whirlpool'. Of course, he was drunk, so it could all be passed off as the ramblings of a drunken bum, but we both know better." A superior smirk. "Don't we, Brown?"
Rembrandt looked at Agent Beckett strangely. "Look lady, I told you, I don't even know what you're talkin' about!"
Agent Beckett pulled herself away from the bed. "Yeah, play your little game. We both know it's more than a coincidence that witnesses say you vanished into a 'blue whirlpool' six years ago, and now the only witness has you reappearing out of another 'whirlpool.' Don't play me for a fool, Brown!"
Rembrandt tried to rise from the bed. He immediately felt the dizziness overtake him. He spoke, "I've already told you everything! I don't know what you want me to say . . ."
"Have it your way. I'll be back soon. And this time, you're going to tell me what you know."
After Agent Beckett had departed, Remmy tried to sleep. For some reason he was unusually tired. It was if it was taking every iota of his strength to stay awake. As slumber consumed him, he could only wonder what had happened. How had he ended up on this world instead of Earth Prime? If it hadn't beenfor the fact that Elvis was alive and there were no Kromaggs, Rembrandt would almost have believed he was home.• • •
The nurse entered the room and Rembrandt awoke.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to wake you."
Rembrandt sat up in the bed and spoke, "It's okay darlin'. Mind telling me what's wrong with me? I'm feeling better now, but I've been feeling so drained since I first woke up here."
The nurse responded, "Oh, the fatigue is just an after affect of the procedure we had to do on you."
Remmy's face showed confusion. "Procedure?"
"Oh, I'm sorry, I thought someone had told you already."
Rembrandt's eyes widened. "What'd you people do to me?"
The nurse took a few steps closer to Remmy. "Easy Mr. Brown, we saved your life. When they brought you in, you were burning up with a fever. You nearly died. We had to try some radical treatments to save you."
Rembrandt could only stare in shock for a moment. "What was wrong with me?"
"As far as we could tell, there was some foreign element in your bloodstream. It was almost untraceable, but after the third day it vanished and you woke up."
It clicked almost instantly in Rembrandt's mind. The synthetic Kromagg virus he had injected himself with before he slid, but it shouldn't have affected him. Unless, of course, the denizens of that world had a different body chemistry. He was trying to save his world and had almost killed himself in the process.
"Are you okay Mr. Brown?"
"Yeah. I'm fine. It's just a lot to take in."
The nurse cracked a smile, "By the way . . . my name is Angie, and I was wondering if I might trouble you for something?"
"What can I do for you?"
Angie held out a pen and notepad. "Can I have your autograph? My mother is a big fan of the Cryin' Man . . ."
Rembrandt grabbed the pen and notepad and chuckled a little. It may not be home, but at least he was known here. "There you go. And you tell your mother I said 'thank you.' It's nice to know I still have fans."
Angie smiled. "I think there's something you should see." Angie looked down at her watch. "Ten to the hour almost. Good."
Remmy looked at her strangely.
Angie grabbed the TV remote and turned on the TV. "Welcome back to CNN Headline News. I'm Jack Turner. Well, as hard as it may be to believe, a miracle has happened in San Francisco. Rembrandt Cryin' Man Brown, a former R&B singer who has been missing for nearly six years, was found four days ago unconscious in an undisclosed location. It seems news of his return has sparked interest in his work, as his hit with the Spinning Topps, 'Cry Like A Man,' is heading back up the charts for the first time in over a decade. On a related note, the other three San Francisco residents that vanished with Brown have yet to be found. Police are hoping Brown can shed some light on their whereabouts."
"It seems you're still famous, Mr. Brown," observed Angie.
Remmy smiled. "Thanks, and by the way? Call me Remmy."
"Will do . . . Remmy."• • •
Miles away from the hospital, in a rural area. The unhabitant of a small cabin receives the news of Rembrandt Brown's return.
"And covering our top stories once again, fighting continues in the Middle East, Clinton vetoes Wagner Bill and Rembrandt Cryin' Man Brown resurfaces in San Francisco after a six year absence."
"Good Heavens!" the figure screamed and immediately ran out of the cabin.• • •
The door to Rembrandt's room slung open. Agent Beckett entered. Following right behind her was another agent, wheeling in a TV and VCR.
"Wonderful. Let me guess, you're going to show me this year's Oscar nominees."
Beckett shot Rembrandt an evil glance. "No, Brown. I'm going to uncover your lie. Tyler, turn the tape on."
The other agent fiddled with the VCR and a tape began to play.
Quinn Mallory appeared on the screen. "Oh my God! It was great. You should have seen it! Right here! It was right here, this . . . thing . . this weird . . thing . . . this big, weird thing . . was right-" A female voice was heard from the background, "QUINN!!!!" The young man looks directly at the camera and speaks, "I think I just knocked out the power."
"September 13. In my attempts to create the world's first anti-gravity machine, I have stumbled across an incredible discovery. Anti-grav? Uh-uh. Something else? Definitely." The Quinn on the video tape adjusts the controls in his hands and a swirling vortex like object appears. "But what?"
"September 21. I've theorized that the mouth of the 'tunnel' could be a gateway to some other existence."
"September 23. Last night I perfected a timing device. It enables me to send objects into the void and have them return at a certain time. I started small, paper airplane, my dino, basketball . . . all of the objects returned like clockwork, but I'm still no closer to what's on the other side."
"September 27. In mere moments I will step into the void. I don't anticipate any problems, but just in case. Mom, if you're seeing this, I love you, and - don't worry about me. Wherever I am, I'm probably having the time of my life. Just don't throw any of my stuff out. Who knows, maybe one day I'll make it back."
Agent Beckett turned to Rembrandt and spoke, "September 27. That's the day you, Quinn Mallory, Wade Welles and Maximilian Arturo vanished off the face of the Earth. You were reported to be seen driving into a strange blue 'whirlpool'. The description matches almost identically to what Mallory shows on his tapes. So Brown, still claim to have been on tour?"
Rembrandt wasn't sure what to do. This wasn't his Earth. Although the events she described were identical to what had happened to him. Still, he knew if he told them the truth, they'd take Quinn's work and do everything in their power to make it their own.
"It's a nice story, Beckett, but you're wrong. I know where I've been."
Agent Beckett grabbed Rembrandt by his collar and pulled him closer. "You listen to me. I'm tired of your games. See, there's one thing you can't explain. The virus that was in your system when they brought you in. The chemical residues we found in our tests had some surprising results. Needless to say Brown, that virus couldn't have come from Earth . . . at least not this Earth."
Rembrandt was silent.
"Fine, play the silence game. You're not going anywhere, Brown . . . not until I get some answers." Beckett turned to Tyler and spoke, "Come on, I want some coffee. Let's give him time to think about his situation."
Beckett and Tyler left the room and Rembrandt's mind began to race. Where were Mallory, Diana and Maggie? The Seer should have told them he was okay. They should have followed him. They should have found him by now . . . unless . . . something had gone wrong back on Seer Earth.
There was a slight knock at the door. Rembrandt didn't even turn to see who it was.
"Yeah, come in."
"Mr. Brown?" The voice, it was familiar, a boisterous English accent.
Rembrandt turned towards the door and spoke, "Professor?"
"Yes Mr. Brown, it is I."
Rembrandt was overcome. It was wonderful to see Arturo again, exept for the fact that his couldn't be 'his' Arturo. His Arturo was dead. There was no need to keep up any facades. This world's Arturo had slid before. Obviously, that group had returned, or possibly been separated.
"Look, I'm not your Rembrandt Brown. My Professor died a few years back."
"Really Mr. Brown. And might I inquire if you ever visited a world you thought was home?"
"Yeah, a few years ago. Thought we were home . . . but then we found out we weren't. The Golden Gate Bridge was blue. I'd let the Topps have the rights to some of my songs . . . and that world's Arturo never slid."
"And Mr. Brown, did you or did you not find 'your' Arturo tied up in a basement?"
"Yeah. When we slid, we didn't even know if we had the right one. But, it had to be our Arturo. There was never any way that he showed he wasn't."
"You blistering idiot! You actually believed that ruffian was me? After all we had been through?"
Rembrandt looked at Arturo strangely.
"Rembrandt, how many times did you land on top of me? How many worlds did we visit together . . . how many blasted hotel rooms did we have to share? And you mean to tell me, that after nearly two years of sliding together you couldn't tell you took the wrong one!"
"That can't be. You can't be our Arturo. We would have noticed. Besides, this isn't my Earth. My Earth Prime is overrun by the Kromaggs. You must have me confused with a double."
Arturo's face became somewhat flushed, he was becoming quite agitated. "Mr. Brown. The world where I helped Bennish create the atom bomb. The world where we met my late wife, the world where Wade won the lottery and was nearly killed, Sorcerer world and of course, your favorite, the world where Rembrandt Brown was the biggest singing sensation ever. Use your brain for one inkling of a second. What is the likelihood of a group of doubles sharing those exact same adventures? Rembrandt. You are home."
Rembrandt shook his head. "No, I'm not. Elvis is alive. On my world he's dead. The Kromaggs conquered Earth Prime. I was there!"
Arturo spoke, "Mr. Brown, Elvis is dead. He has been for quite some time. Where did you get that information?"
Rembrandt nearly kicked himself. That was why Agent Beckett didn't believe he had been touring. She had thrown the Elvis comment in to test him and he had failed miserably. "A certain Agent Beckett, FBI told me that."
"You have been lied to, Mr. Brown. And as to your belief that the Kromaggs invaded our world, you may have believed you had returned there, but I can show you evidence that proves otherwise. Rembrandt, this is home."
Rembrandt's mind opened. This man was speaking the truth. The likelihood of another group sharing that sequence of slides . . . detail for detail was next to none. Was it true, had they mistakenly taken the wrong Arturo all of those years ago? And if so, was this really home? Was that possible?
"Professor? Is it really you?" Rembrandt asked.
Arturo smiled. "Yes, Mr. Brown. It is I. Now, would you care to tell me what has become of Quinn and Wade?"
Remmy's head sank.
"Rembrandt. What's wrong? They are still alive, aren't they?"
Rembrandt spoke slowly, "Professor . . . Wade's dead."
Arturo found himself hardly able to breathe. "What?"
"The Kromaggs got her. Shipped her off to a . . . freakin' breeder camp. Then they used her for this experiment, turned her into a living computer so she could generate wormholes for them. She sacrificed herself for me . . . so that we could escape." Rembrandt had broken down into tears. "It was horrible, they mutilated her. She was nothing more than a . . . a zombie in a tank."
Tears were forming in Arturo's eyes. "And what of Quinn?"
"He's still alive . . . sort of."
"Sort of? Good heavens, what happened?"
"There was an accident inside the vortex. He was merged with one of his doubles. Mallory we call him. He's a fraternal double. Doesn't look too much like our Quinn."
"Merged? What does that mean? Quinn's a part of him?"
"Quinn's in there somewhere. Mallory's in control. We were trying to find a way to seperate them, but supposedly if we do it'll kill Mallory."
"This is, uhm . . . this is quite a bit to take in. Where is this, ah, Mallory?"
Rembrandt spoke, "He and Diana and Maggie must still be on that last world we were on. The timer was destroyed. I used a Kromagg device to slide here, but this isn't where I thought I'd end up. I was suppose to go back to the Kromagg-dominated Earth Prime. They were going to follow me when they knew it was safe."
"Rembrandt, this is Earth Prime. There are no Kromaggs here."
"How can you be sure? We've all been fooled before."
Arturo began to speak. "When I was left on that world those years ago, I attempted to create sliding so that I might be able to find you along with Quinn and Wade. I worked for over a year before I was able to create a working sliding machine. I still had no means of tracking you, however. It was at this time Quinn's double returned. With his help, I was able to refine my design. Also, in his journey he had encountered a Quinn double who had nearly mastered sliding. Using that other Quinn's technology, we were able to discover my quantum signature and using that knowledge I returned here. Home. I believed that the three of you might have returned here. Sadly I was wrong."
"Quantum signature . . . must be how Geiger pinned this down as my Earth." Remmy grinned and shook his head. "That settles it . . ."
"In any event, I arrived in Quinn's basement. And was immediately greeted by his mother. I feel for that poor woman. She has been without her son for far too long. Upon discovering that Quinn's equipment, notes and journals had been confiscated by the FBI and that the three of you had yet to return, I set about to discover a way to track you down. Realizing that the FBI would be looking for me, I went into a self-imposed exile. For the last year I've been attempting to perfect sliding in such a way that I might be able to bring you three back."
Rembrandt could scarcely believe it. This was home, but what to do now?
"Professor. We have a problem."
"Now what could that be, Mr. Brown?"
"Agent Beckett. She's a double of Maggie, one of the women I've been sliding with, and she works for the FBI. They know everything. She keeps trying to get me to confess to knowledge about sliding."
"Well then Mr. Brown,it appears we must get you out of here."
"How are we gonna do that?"
Arturo cracked a smile. "I have a plan."• • •
An increasingly short-tempered Agent Beckett announced her arrival in Rembrandt's room. "Okay Brown, here we go again . . ." The bed was empty. After a moment, silence reinforced that her nemesis was gone. "Dammit!"
Beckett tore the cell phone from her belt and placed a call. "Tyler, alert Phelps and Stevens. Brown is missing."• • •
Rembrandt was lying on a stretcher, covered by a sheet. Arturo was behind him pushing the stretcher. He was dressed in OR scrubs.
A nurse stopped them in a corridor. "Sir, what are you doing?"
"Nurse, please! This man is having an appendicitis; there's not a moment to waste. I have to get him to the OR!"
As if on cue, Remmy began to moan in pain.
The nurse looked down at him, then back at Arturo and spoke, "But, the OR is the other way."
Arturo looked around and roared, "Run! Run like Hell!"
Rembrandt jumped off of the stretcher and the two ran down the staircase.• • •
Agent Beckett paced the room intensely. Her cell phone rang and she answered it. "Hello."
"I've spotted Brown, Beckett. He's with a large Caucasian man who seems to be speaking with an English accent."
Beckett's eyes lit up. "Arturo . . . That means they all might be around. Phelps, don't lose them."
"They've just gotten into a car. I'll tail them."
"Good. I'll be there momentarily. And Phelps?"
"Don't lose them. Director Haddison will have my badge if Brown gets away . . . or worse, he'll do to me what he did to Riley when he lost that Bennish guy."
"I won't let you down, Beckett."
"Good. Beckett out."• • •
The Jeep Cherokee crunched its way over another errant branch. Two miles to go.
"One question, Mr. Brown."
"What do you intend to do once we make it to the cabin?"
"Simple. I've gotta find a way to go back for Maggie and the others."
"I assumed as much. Luckily, I've developed the means to track wormholes. Simply put, I can locate the origin point of the vortex that brought you here. So . . . it appears that we are to be sliding again, Mr. Brown."
"Of course. Rembrandt, Quinn is like a son to me. I refuse to leave him in the state he is in. There must be a world out there that possesses the necessary technology to extract him from his double without doing harm to either. And besides, did you really expect me to let you jump into the void alone?"
Rembrandt smiled, "It's nice to have you back, Professor."
Arturo chuckled. "Ditto."
The jeep pulled up to their destination, and the two men disembarked. Little did they realize they had been followed.• • •
Phelps stepped from his car and pulled out his phone. He dialed a number and waited.
"Beckett. I'm here; how close are you?"
"We're almost in position, Phelps. Do not make a move until I arrive. Understood?"
"Clear. Phelps out."• • •
Arturo ushered his friend into the makeshift laboratory at the back of the cabin. It was filled with large mechinery, presumably sliding equipment.
Arturo fiddled with some dials and exclaimed, "AHA! I have a lock on the origin point of the wormhole that brought you here."
Rembrandt replied, "That's great! What now?"
Arturo pulled out a device from a drawer. Rembrandt looked it over closely. It was nearly identical to Quinn's original timer, only with differently shaped and labeled portions where alternate parts had had to suffice. The glowing red strips of translucent plastic on either side gave it a fresh touch of style.
"See you couldn't change the design." Remmy smiled.
"The boy was a genius . . . why tamper with his design?"
Rembrandt spoke, "Professor. There's something you should know."
"And what is that my good man?"
"A lot's happened since you left us. Things are complicated. The Kromaggs, Colin . . . man, I'm not even sure what Earth Quinn's from anymore. There's a lot you won't understand."
"I am aware of that, Mr. Brown. I only seek to help. Besides, we are bringing you friends back here as soon as we find them. From this cabin we'll do controlled sliding excursions. Everything will work out. Trust me, Rembrandt."
"You know I do. So how long you gonna set the timer for?"
Arturo held up the timer, punched in a few numbers and declared, "I believe five hours should suffice."
He was seconds away from turning the dial when the two of them heard the door slam open.
"Brown! Arturo! We know you're here. Come out now!"
"Aww, man . . . it's Beckett. We have to go!" Rembrandt screamed.
Arturo twisted the dial and a vortex took shape. It resembled the new-look gateway Rembrandt had grown accustomed to, but with the translucent quality and pure blue coloring of the original. He could still see the slide tech, though distorted, behind the portal.
"After you," insisted Arturo.
"Uh-uh Professor, I want something soft to land on." Remmy cracked a smile.
Arturo tried not to smile. "Very well." He leapt into the hole, and Remmy followed.
Beckett burst in, just in time to see the vortex collapse. "Damn. Haddison's going to have my badge for this."The adventure resumes . . .